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CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN

TRIS

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“GET US IN, David,” Nita says, her voice garbled by the mask.

David’s eyes slide lazily to the side, to the man pointing the gun at him.

“I don’t believe you’ll shoot me,” he says. “Because I’m the only one in this building who knows this information, and you want that serum. ”

“Won’t shoot you in the head, maybe,” the man says, “but there are other places. ”

The man and Nita exchange a look. Then the man shifts the gun down, to David’s feet, and fires. I squeeze my eyes shut as David’s screams fill the hallway. He might be one of the people who offered Jeanine Matthews the attack simulation, but I still don’t relish his screams of pain.

I stare at the guns I carry, one in each hand, my fingers pale against the black triggers. I imagine myself trimming back all the stray branches of my thoughts, focusing on just this place, just this time.

I put my mouth right next to Matthew’s ear and mutter, “Go for help. Now. ”

Matthew nods and starts down the hallway. To his credit, he moves quietly, his footsteps silent on the tile. At the end of the hallway he looks back at me, and then disappears around the bend.

“I’m sick of this shit,” the red-haired woman says. “Just blow up the doors. ”

“An explosion would activate one of the backup security measures,” says Nita. “We need the pass code. ”

I look around the corner again, and this time, David’s eyes shift to mine. His face is pale and shiny with sweat, and there is a wide pool of blood around his ankles. The others are looking at Nita, who takes a black box from her pocket and opens it to reveal a syringe and needle.

“Thought you said that stuff doesn’t work on him,” the man with the gun says.

“I said he could resist it, not that it didn’t work at all,” she says. “David, this is a very potent blend of truth serum and fear serum. I’m going to stick you with it if you don’t tell us the pass code. ”

“I know this is just the fault of your genes, Nita,” David says weakly. “If you stop now, I can help you, I can—”

Nita smiles a twisted smile. With relish, she sticks the needle in his neck and presses the plunger. David slumps over, and then his body shudders, and shudders again.

He opens his eyes wide and screams, staring at the empty air, and I know what he’s seeing, because I’ve seen it myself, in Erudite headquarters, under the influence of the terror serum. I watched my worst fears come to life.

Nita kneels in front of him and grabs his face.

“David!” she says urgently. “I can make it stop if you tell us how to get into this room. Hear me?”

He pants, and his eyes aren’t focused on her, but rather on something over her shoulder. “Don’t do it!” he shouts, and he lunges forward, toward whatever phantom the serum is showing him. Nita puts an arm across his chest to keep him steady, and he screams, “Don’t—!”

Nita shakes him. “I’ll stop them from doing it if you tell me how to get in!”

“Her!” David says, and tears gleam in his eyes. “The—the name—”

“Whose name?”

“We’re running out of time!” the man with the gun trained on David says. “Either we get the serum or we kill him—”

“Her,” David says, pointing at the space in front of him.

Pointing at me.

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I stretch my arms around the corner of the wall and fire twice. The first bullet hits the wall. The second hits the man in the arm, so the huge weapon topples to the floor. The red-haired woman points her weapon at me—or the part of me that she can see, half hidden by the wall—and Nita screams, “Hold your fire!”

“Tris,” Nita says, “you don’t know what you’re doing—”

“You’re probably right,” I say, and I fire again. This time my hand is steadier, my aim is better; I hit Nita’s side, right above her hip. She screams into her mask and clutches the hole in her skin, sinking to her knees, her hands covered in blood.

David surges toward me with a grimace of pain as he puts weight on his injured leg. I wrap my arm around his waist and swing his body around so he’s between me and the remaining soldiers. Then I press one of my guns to the back of his head.

They all freeze. I can feel my heartbeat in my throat, in my hands, behind my eyes.

“Fire, and I’ll shoot him in the head,” I say.

“You wouldn’t kill your own leader,” the red-haired woman says.

“He’s not my leader. I don’t care if he lives or dies,” I say. “But if you think I’m going to let you gain control of that death serum, you’re insane. ”

I start to shuffle backward, with David whimpering in front of me, still under the influence of the serum cocktail. I duck my head and turn my body sideways so it’s safely behind his. I keep one of the guns against his head.

We reach the end of the hallway, and the woman calls my bluff. She fires, and hits David just above the knee, in his other leg. He collapses with a scream, and I am exposed. I dive to the ground, slamming my elbows into the floor, as a bullet goes past me, the sound vibrating inside my head.

Then I feel something hot spreading through my left arm, and I see blood and my feet scramble on the floor, searching for traction. I find it and fire blindly down the hallway. I grab David by the collar and drag him around the corner, pain searing through my left arm.

I hear running footsteps and groan. But they aren’t coming from behind me; they’re coming from in front. People surround me, Matthew among them, and some of them pick David up and run with him down the hallway. Matthew offers me his hand.

My ears are ringing. I can’t believe I did it.

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